Accepted paper:

The uses of mutualism in the Italian recovered factories movement


Giovanni Orlando (University of Turin)
Francesca Forno (University of Bergamo)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the recovered factories movement in Italy as a contribution to the study of (re)new(ed) forms of mutualism, especially in response to the erosion of the welfare state, chronic unemployment and the delocalisation of productive activities.

Paper long abstract:

The Bretton Woods era was characterised by the expansion of markets, the building of public mutuality in the form of welfare states, and the displacement of socio-environmental externalities to peripheral countries. The neoliberal era saw a radicalisation of market expansion and peripheral displacement, but also the beginning of the welfare state’s erosion and the backflow of externalities to core countries. These processes are symbolised by loss of labour rights, unemployment and delocalisation. The economic stagnation and austerity policies that have followed the 2008 crisis have escalated the “precarization” of labour. In its wake, attempts at increasing grassroots mutuality have been emerging throughout Europe. This paper explores the recovered factories movement in Italy. While the Argentinian case is seminal, workers’ recoveries have recently developed also in France, Greece and Italy. Mutualism is at the centre of this movement in at least two ways, which constitute our main avenues of inquiry. Firstly, mutualism in the form of the self-management ideal. By looking at recent cases of recovery in Italy, we wish to understand the role played by mutualistic values in motivating workers to recover a failed business. Secondly, mutualism as the basis of alliances with other social movements. We also want to comprehend how these values are called upon to establish collaborations with other movements that build on similar egalitarian ideals, such as the solidarity economy one, both domestically and internationally. The paper will contribute to an understanding of the grassroots forces that counteract the market by strengthening the sphere of mutuality.

panel P36
Engagement and disengagement in crisis: anthropology as a mutualist concern